Thursday, February 08, 2007

that'll leave a mark

I suppose it is inevitable that people who conduct historical research tend to wonder what sort of mark they will eventually leave in their wake- if ANY. Obviously, the “present” tends to obscure the future “past” to the point that it is left unrecognizable as such. Or possibly, the past can only be truly pondered for its significance by people who weren’t involved- and therefore removing the various levels of bias that are certain to cloud almost anyone’s perspective.

Admittedly that is one of the thoughts that bounces around in my skull while I’m reading New Mexico territorial newspapers from the 1880s in search of tidbits about base ball players and games that were played when the west was still untamed. Constantly distracted from my subject by fascinating reports of bank robberies, train wrecks, outbreaks of smallpox and other devastating diseases, and countless tragic double axe murders that would give Theodore Dreiser nightmares, I find myself surprised by my own amazement at how little “we’ve” changed over the past 120-some years.

Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom; the papers are also filled with reports of relaxing Sunday picnics, humorous stories about everyday events, and articles concerning technological advances or people determined to make advancements for the betterment of the world. The bottom line is that as I scroll through the reels of microfilm one frame at a time, allowing the mundane elements of the past reveal themselves to me along with the anticipated major timeline markers, I can’t help but notice that the contributions of most people are soon swept under the rug. Simply put, in the grand scheme of things, fifteen minutes isn’t very much time at all.

I sincerely hope you haven’t read this far expecting me to provide an answer. Hell, I’ve digressed so wide I barely remember the concept, let alone any question that I may have proposed. Oh yeah… leaving one’s mark!

Let’s assume for a minute that you wish to be “remembered” for more than just your name and social security number in various census tracts and records maintained by clueless government clerks and ordained archivists of the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; headstone-cold data that will only be uncovered by the most probing of genealogical exams. Perhaps you don’t care to tempt the historical fates by leaving behind only a few unremarkable snapshots in a very limited run of a handful of high school yearbooks. Unless you are the type of person capable of inventing something similar to (but completely different from) the atomic bomb or the internet (which you very well may be given that you have chosen to read this entry) one method that may hold the most promise is to consciously divide your allotted 15 minutes into manageable nanoseconds, and disperse them into as many different media as possible. Write a book (and get it published). Appear in a (meaningful) motion picture- even as an extra. Create some art. Submit a killer recipe to a magazine. Start a blog. Record an album. Take photographs and distribute them far and wide. Heck, develop your own television show for public access and have it beamed to well beyond the furthest reaches of the universe.

Making kids on the other hand, does NOT count. You'll need to be more creative than that.

One of the more interesting unanticipated finds on the microfilm of the 1883 Daily Democrat is this image of a thumb of the person who photographed the newspapers before they were destroyed. Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the person to attach to the thumb, but I do know that they worked for a firm called Golightly Payne Coon in El Paso, Texas, and probably in the late 1950s. I’m left wondering whether the person intentionally included their thumb on the corner of all the pages, or if it was accidental. Seriously, that is the kind of thing I would do on purpose just to mess with a person from the future. And probably that is why I’ve never worked for a microfilm company.

I decided that I would copy the idea and include my version here on Blog Kabin Fever to entertain my readers. Normally I wouldn’t admit to copying someone else’s idea, but given DIY Networks’ recent decision to steal the name of my blog, and then bastardize the spelling in order to prevent me from unleashing a torrent of lawyers to threaten them, I figured “What the heck.”

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